Issue No. 19

Delicious sunshine cocktails and scrumptious recipes, brilliant features and tons of information and gorgeous photos to inspire your visits. The secret life of castles in Burgundy, the Abbey of Senanque in Provence, Sainte-Denis, Lourdes, Calvados in Normandy, Paris, Grenoble and more...

Delicious sunshine cocktails and scrumptious recipes, brilliant features and tons of information and gorgeous photos to inspire your visits. The secret life of castles in Burgundy, the Abbey of Senanque in Provence, Sainte-Denis, Lourdes, Calvados in Normandy, Paris, Grenoble and more...

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Summer is served in this issue of The Good Life France Magazine!

From delicious sunshine cocktails and scrumptious recipes to what's new in France

this summer, there's a ton of information and gorgeous photos to inspire your visits.

We take an in-depth look at the historic and gorgeous Abbaye de Senanque in

Provence, discover Calvados in Normandy and put the spotlight on Saint-Denis

Paris. We also visit the ritzy Ritz Hotel in Paris where Coco Channel lived, explore 20

great things to do in Toulouse and find out what to do on a weekend in Grenoble

and Vienne, often overlooked by visitors, these two great towns have so much to


You'll love our feature on the best markets in France - it's official! We take a look at

some of the most amazing chateaux in Burgundy and Franche-Comté and meet the

owners who have the privilege and hard work of caring for them.

There are expat stories to inspire those who may be considering the move, including

a British snail farmer in the north of France (yes really!), practical advice guides and


And don't forget to enter our five give away competitions for great summer reading!

Bisous from France


ps that's my dog Bruno, he's a gentle giant who loves to play with a ball!


Barb Harmon is a freelance

travel writer and hopeless

Francophile. She and her

husband are looking

forward to living the good

life in France (fingers

crossed). She blogs at


Lucy Pitts is the Deputy

Editor of The Good Life

France Magazine. She

divides her time between

the UK and France where

she has a home in the the

Vendée area, known as the

Green Venice of France.

Find her at stroodcopy.com

Martha McCormick is a writer

who first set foot in France at

age 17 where she experienced

an epiphany perhaps familiar

to many people: This is what

life is meant to be!

Editor: Janine Marsh contact editor (at) the goodlifefrance.com

Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts

Advertising: sales (at) thegoodlifefrance.com

Digital support: Umbrella Web Solutions

Artistic support: Kumiko at KumikoChesworth.myportfolio.com

Front Cover image: Honfleur, Calvados, Normandy


P. 8

p. 25

P. 30

p 26


8 The Secret Life of


A look at some of the magnificent castles

of Burgundy and Franche-Comté

20 Discover Calvados

The famous liqueur of Normandy that can

blow your socks off!

26 What's new for Summer

2018 in France

Great events and openings you won't want

to miss

32 Le Weekend in Grenoble

Visit the cities that have so much to offer

and a long an ancient history, well worth a


38 The Abbaye de Senanque


Famous for the lavender fields but worth a

visit on its own merits.

44 20 things to do in


The bet things to do in the sunny city from

dawn to dusk

p. 54

p. 76

p. 72

Features continued

54 The best markets in

France - it's official

A recent competition crowned the favourite

markets of the French - we reveal all...

62 Lourdes the Capital of

Miracles in France

Kevin Pilley visits Lourdes and finds its a

place of friendship and welcome.

68 Putting on the Ritz

Barb Harmon doesn't spend the night but

does fall in love with the Chanel suite.

72 Spotlight on Saint-Denis

The Paris suburb has some spectacular

places to visit.


76 Your Photos

Featuring the best photos for April, May

and June shared on our Facebook page -

78 Give Aways

5 Great books - perfect for summer reading,

just enter the draws!

80 Expat Story: The British

Snail Farmer wowing the


At first the locals were curious, now they're

fans of the Brit farming snails in France!

86 Expat Story: The best B&B

in France!

How to be successful with a B&B.

p. 62

p. 102

p. 54

p. 68

p. 78

Expert Advice

90 Hobby Homes

Farms, Vineyards and Equestrian

properties, guide to how and where to buy.

94 expert financial advice

You don't need to be a millionaire to

benefit from financial advice.

98 the basics of banking in


Everything you need to know about setting

up a bank account in France.


24 chicken with calvados

25 Cupcakes with calvados

100 ratatouille tian

102 creme caramel

104 chestnut and chocolate


The Secret life of


The Secret World of Castles…

Not all chateaux are open to the public as grand museums, in fact the majority of them

are still lived in. Their owners see them as a responsibility and a privilege, with a duty to

keep the ancient and often enormous homes safe for future generations.

Burgundy has more chateaux than any other region in France. It’s neighbour and now

partner since the 2016 regional shake up, Franche-Comté also has its fair share of

castles including the incredible 17th century Citadel of Besancon.

Go chateau-hopping in Bourgogne-Franche-Comte and you’ll find chateaux galore to

explore and stay in…

Here are a few favourites:

The chateau was built in the Renaissance

style. Set in 123 acres of parkland, it is one

of the first French castles to have been

built to a plan that was set out on paper. It

was the work of Italian architect

Sebastiano Serlio who went to France to

work on the Chateau of Fontainebleau and

the Louvre. Before then, castles tended to

be designed as they went along.

The Chateau was once owned by the

husband of Diane de Poitier’s sister and

there have been claims that the ghost of

the famous mistress of Henri II, who had

an apartment here, roams the rooms. The

castle changed hands several times and

fell into neglect before being bought by a

Paris real estate company which has

Chateau d’Ancy-le-Franc, Yonne

undertaken a long and very expensive

restoration of the chateau.

Inside beautifully renovated and furnished

rooms and the once glorious 16th century

murals painted by the great masters of

yesteryear are coming back to life as

experts restore the colours. In the chapel

which took 8 years to paint, the ancient

walls are being revealed for the first time in

centuries. Wine fairs and concerts are held

in the beautiful grounds and the

sumptuously decorated courtyard and

grounds are the perfect place to wander

and enjoy the orangery, 18th century folly

and gorgeous gardens.


Chateau stay: Chateau Vault de Lugny, Yonne

Channel your inner King and Queen

at this stunning moated chateau

hotel – you can even book the room

once reserved for kings. Built

between the 13th and 17th centuries

the chateau Vault de Lugny oozes

charm and history and is now owned

by charming couple Elisabeth and

Pascal Bourzeix. Expect roaring open

fires on cold nights, fabulous food in

a gastronomic restaurant and

wonderful service. And the rooms.

You seriously feel like royalty in

these exquisite rooms that look just

like they must have to the nobles

who stayed in them centuries years

ago. The hotel pool has been voted

the most beautiful in France and

believe me, there’s nothing quite so

special as taking a dip in a pool in an

ancient but warm cellar that feels

cocoon like. It can be hired for a

private dinner a deux – how romantic

is that?


Chateau de Sully, Saone-et-Loire

Madame de Sévigné, a 17th century

aristocrat famous for recording daily life

through copious letters, called the

courtyard of the Chateau de Sully “the

most beautiful in France”, and she wasn’t

wrong. It is a huge space, perfect for

partying aristos and surrounded by the

walls of the fabulous castle. The gorgeous

courtyard (photo page: 8-9) was designed

by Gaspard de Saulx-Tavannes, a favourite

of Queen Catherine de Medici.

The Chateau is perhaps not as well-known

as it ought to be as it is in the middle of

beautiful burgundy countryside, around

35km from Beaune, but it's well worth the

effort to visit and explore the beautiful

grounds and interior.

Built around 1567, this is no museum

chateau, in fact it’s still lived in by Madame

la Duchesse de Magenta, Marquise de Mac

Mahon. It has a pinch of medieval, a dash

of Renaissance and is elegant and pretty

as a picture. Surrounded by a moat fed by

the River Drée, you cross a five arch bridge

to enter the castle passing by what look

like giant, ancient stone chess pieces. In

fact they are symbols of the pride of a

previous owner who on being made a

Marquis celebrated by ordering the great

stone sculptures of artefacts that feature on

a marquis' coronet.

The castle has been in the Mac Mahon

family for several generations after Jean

Mac Mahon, an Irish doctor married an

heiress who inherited the castle. It was the

home of Patrice de Mac Mahon, President

of France from 1875-1879. The Duchess who

hails from Scotland, married the Duke of

Mac Mahon and it is she who lives there

with her children and manages the vast

estate ensuring the castle’s well-being.

You’ll often spot her flitting about the castle

and gardens followed by her excitable,

friendly dogs.

Inside the rooms are furnished with family


The family have hardly changed

anything but maintained the integrity

and historic beauty of the chateau for

future generations. There’s no central

heating and in a big castle like this, it

can get very cold in the winter. “We

have hot water bottles” says the

Duchess laughing.

Thanks to this determination to keep

the chateau authentic, a guided tour

reveals the exquisite footprints of

history in every room. Unlike some

chateaux the French Revolution

didn’t leave its mark.

Legend has it that the when the

revolutionaries arrived to take the

widowed Marquise to prison, the

family explained that she was in her

80s and was dying and they

persuaded the mob to come back

when she had passed, which was

predicted to be soon. The old lady did

die a few weeks later but the canny

family put her body in a barrel of

brandy. When the revolutionaries

returned, the family retrieved the

body, put it in bed and pretended the

old lady was still ill. The revolutionaries

insisted on seeing her and

agreed that she really didn’t look

well. This went on until the French

Revolution calmed down and the

chateau survived. To this day says

the Duchess, no one knows what day

the Marquise actually died on, so

they put 14 July 1978 on her grave.

Guided visits are available daily

(March to November), in English in

summer months, and there are

events throughout the year. It's

especially kid-friendly with lots to do.

Dont miss the delicious tea room and

irresistible shop where you can buy

the Estate's wine and fab souvenirs.


Top: Amelie, Duchesse de Magenta with

her sister Charlotte with some wine

made from the Chateau's estate. Above:

the incredible stone sculptures that

represent the pieces from a Marquis'


Château de Couches, Saône-et-Loire

The 12th century Chateau de Couches was

a former home of the fabulously wealthy

Dukes of Burgundy. These days we can all

take a guided tour and enjoy the wonderful

views from its high walls. You can also rent

a gorgeous apartment, take a guided wine

tasting, book a wine course and join in the

events. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy

lunch at the Chateau, where the fresh,

home-made menu and local wines

combined with beautiful views are fantastic

(Thursday-Sunday, 12h-14h – reserve online

at their website below).


Chateau de Germolles, Saône-et-Loire

This ancient chateau is really quite

extraordinary. Not just for its good looks

and its ancient history but because in one

of the rooms the original wall decoration

dating to the 14th century is still intact and

very beautiful.

It once belonged to the Dukes of Burgundy

and was home to Philip le Bold and his wife

Margaret of Flanders, the richest heiress in

Europe in her day. Though they owned

around 50 properties including 20 palaces,

this is the best surviving property of the

immensely wealthy Duke. He gave it to

Margaret as a gift, at that time it was more

of a fort. She had it renovated to look much

prettier. She also kept animals in the fields,

put swans in the moat and made perfume

from the roses that grew there, much like

Marie-Antoinette escaping the problems of

daily life in her hamlet at Versailles.

On a guided tour of the house, owner

Matthieu Pinette urges “don’t touch the

walls” in one of the bedrooms and it’s easy

to see why.

Above: 14th century wall decor;

above right: entry at the Chateau

de Germolles

Amazingly the letter M for Margaret and

P for Philip, are painted on the wall, and

they’re original, dating back to the winter

of 1389-90 according to the records. The

black colour that you see is glue holding

what would originally have been gold. It’s

very romantic and absolutely astonishing

to know that more that 650 years ago,

the nobles who lived here would have

gone to bed at night looking at the same

walls and décor we can see today. Very

much the keeper of the castle, Matthieu

ensures the maintenance, restoration

and renovation of the home that has

been in his family for 150 years.

Guided visits are available


Château d’Arlay, Jura, Franche-Comte

Pop over the border from Burgundy into

Franche-Comté and the Jura Department to

visit the Chateau d’Arlay. The castle is

lovely but it’s the gardens that make it a

real knock out visit with exquisite views

over the countryside. With 8 hectares of

walled park, it’s the perfect place for a

breath of fresh air. Afterwards take a visit

of the castle which was built in 1774 on the

site of a fort which dates back to 1150.

The family-owned home is full of beautiful

artefacts furnished by former resident the

Countess Laraguais, heiress to the Princes’

of Orange’s holdings in the region. During

the French Revolution the castle remained

unharmed but many of its possessions

were taken. Later, Napoleon ordered

reparations to families who had lost

belongings and the castle is full of furniture

from the 1800s where the family went on a

spending spree with the money they were

awarded. There’s an eclectic collection here

including some fabulous giraffe

memorabilia commemorating the arrival of

Zarafa the giraffe in France in 1827. She was

a gift from the King of Egypt to Charles X of

France and walked with her keepers from

Marseille to Paris where she lived in the

Jardin des Plantes – it caused a sensation

in the day.

You’ll need around 3 hours to take a tour,

visit the grounds and do a wine tasting in

the shop which sells the wine made from

the estate.


Photo: Christopher Cage

Chateau de Joux, Haut-Doubs

If you like your castles to be brooding and

dramatic then this one’s for you. Perched

on a rocky peninsula along one of the

ancient major trade routes of Europe, the

Chateau de Joux tells a tale of a thousand

years of military history.

A visit here is not for the faint-hearted,

those who have mobility issues and

definitely no pushchairs. There are no lifts

or ramps, you have to get into the castle via

steep stairs. It's worth it though because

this isn't like any other castle. "Here we

dream of history" said Francois Miterrand

when he visited and he's right, this place

feels alive with the past - 1000 years worth.

It was also once a prison “the little sister of

the Bastille” says the guide. It made the

hair stand up on the back of my neck just

to think about those who have been locked

up in this chateau. There have been many,

including the unfortunate Berthe de Joux,

wife of a crusader. Believeing he was dead

she fell in love with one of his companions.

Alas the husband returned, killed the lover

and locked his wife in a tower where she

stayed until he died.

You can visit the cell where prisoners were

held and when the guide turns out the light,

the darkness weighs like a tangible horror,

totally dark and silent, you can't help but


There are no glamorous furnishings, no

gardens to walk through - this is the bad

boy of castles with seriously impressive

views to match and kids will love its

dramatic story. Parents might like to visit

nearby Pontarlier afterwards where

absinthe is made!

Open April - November, guided tour only,

see the website for events and night time



Citadel of Besanson, Jura

The immense Citadel of Besancon

deserves far more space than we have

here, but it would be impossible to mention

Jura and not mention this huge,

astonishing fort. (You can expect a whole

article devoted to the subject in the near


When I entered through the huge arch of

the vast masterpiece built by Louis XIV's

military engineer Vauban, crows cawed

and the sound echoed all around. The last

thing I expected to see as I walked over a

bridge to the inner area was baboons and

goats running around, but there they were,

capering about on the hill the citadel sits

on. I'm told they're retired from zoos and

can't get out!

you're in the clouds, especially if it's a misty

day as it was when I was there.

Inside this UNESCO listed monument

which covers a massive 12 hectares, are

museums, an aquarium, insectarium,

noctarium, farm and rooms with exhibits

and showing film, walkways in the sky and

a whole lot more. You could easily spend

an entire day here if you want to see


And always, there are the views,

extraordinary from this vantage point 100m

above the old town.

Open from February to December.


The Citadel is so high you feel as though

Get lots more information about chateaux and places to stay in Bourgogne-

Franche-Comte at the tourist office website: en.bourgognefranchecomte.com



Calvados is both a place and a drink. It is a

department that lies in the heart of

Normandy and includes amongst its many

jewels the pretty harbour town of Honfleur,

swanky Deauville, and the port town of

Caen, capital of Calvados as well as William

the conquerors last home town.

This area is known as the garden of Paris,

rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and meat

products. It’s also home to some of the best

apple orchards in the world from which

Calvados the drink is made…

Normandy Eau de Vie

They’ve been making cider in Normandy for

centuries and from cider comes Calvados, a

sort of apple brandy known as a “drink fit for

kings and farmers alike”.

distillation in Normandy was described by

Sir Gilles de Gouberville in his diaries on 28

of March 1553.

Four different types of apple are grown in

Calvados - sweet, bitter sweet, bitter and

acidic - the perfect combination for cider. To

create Calvados, the cider is distilled twice

creating eau de vie. The liquid is matured in

wood barrels and blended. The result is a

strong and rather subtle taste that can blow

your socks off.

One of the best known and most important

Calvados producers is Pere Magloire,

founded in 1821. Their range includes

several bottles of differing ages and you'll

find Calvados easily in shops in France as

well as overseas.

The first official reference regarding cider

The Calvados Experience

You can find out all about Calvados at the

Calvados Experience, part museum, part

show. This brand new experience opened in

2018 at Pont-L’Eveque on the site of

France’s oldest and most famous distillery.

It’s a celebration of and homage to

Calvados and I really don’t want to spoil it

by giving too much away but this is a fully

immersive “experience” with some

awesome special effects. One minute you’ll

find yourself in a centuries old Norman town

on a misty morning listening to bird song,

peeking at a farmer and his rosy cheeked

wife picking apples. The next minute you’ll

find yourself watching an apple mountain

tumble and fill the air with the scent of

crushed apples. It’s very artistic and very

well done, educational as well as fun, telling

the history of Calvados – and it’s quite a


The Calvados Experience is great for the

whole family and there’s a tasting included

in the visit (though not for kids) and a very

smart shop selling Calvados and cider

products plus a picnic area and a café on


calvados-experience.com/en - you can take

the tour in eight languages.

Calvados Cocktail Competition

Normandy folk love Calvados so much that

each year they hold an International

Calvados cocktail competition with a

different theme, for instance in 2018

competitors had to include a vegetable

element. It’s an event that’s taken seriously

with entrants from around the world flying in

to participate. They are the winners of best

bartender competitions from countries like

Russia, UK, Estonia, Sweden, Finland,

Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Poland as

well as of course France. Student bar

tenders also take part. And, if you thought

Calvados was just for drinking neat with ice,

you couldn’t be more wrong, it makes an

excellent base for cocktails.

Far left: Calvados

Experience; mid:

Calvados Experience

shop; left: Calvados

pairing; above: Some

of the Calcvados

cocktail contest


The competition has been emceed for

several years by possibly the world’s most

famous bartender, the legendary Colin Field

of the Ritz, Paris. “Hotel bars are where it’s

at these days” he says. He’s seen Calvados

make a splash and move into the sexy world

of cocktails and says he's been working with

it since 1982 - always ahead of his time.

In days of old Calvados was a popular tipple

with coffee in the morning - and at night. In

fact, it's still drunk this way in some places.

But these days it's far more popular mixed

with all sorts of things to create the most

delicious cocktails. In Normandy they take

their mixes seriously. The International

Calvados Cocktail Competition is fun but

surprisingly sober, winning is a serious


“A good bartender can make the reputation

of a bar“ says Colin, “they’re a

representative who can convert a bar’s

attitude with their deft mix, gift of the gab

and their image”.

Next time you’re in a bar – ask for a

Calvados cocktail and prepare to be


Look out for next year's contest in Calvados,

entry is free to the public: www.


Pere Magloire

Summer Punch

4 cl of Calvados Père


2 cl of Pommeau Père


4 cl of orange juice

2 cl of mango juice

1 cl of strawberry syrup

Serve with ice and a slice!


Chicken with Calvados

Ingredients for 4 people

4 chicken breasts

4 apples to cook

4 small turnips (optional)

1 quince (if you can’t get hold of one use a Golden delicious apple, peel,

chop and heat until soft and pulpy)

20 cl of coconut milk

20 cl of cream

100 g of butter

10 cl of Calvados

Some chopped rosemary and chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 ° C/ Gas Mark 4.

Cook the chicken breasts in the oven, 15 minutes on each side.

Wrap the quince generously in foil and cook in boiling water for 1 hour. It will turn to pulp,

set aside.

Peel and cut the turnips into 4 pieces. Cook them in salted water.

Peel the apples, cut them into quarters. Cook in butter for 15 minutes until golden.

Mix the coconut milk with the quince pulp, the Calvados, the rosemary and crème fraiche


Divide the creamy mix onto plates, then the apple and turnip wedges. Lay the chicken

over the top. Sprinkle with chives, salt, freshly ground pepper.

And for real zing, decorate with lemon zest and serve with a glass of Calvados

These recipes are from the Interprofession des Appellations Cidricoles, find more on their

website at: www.idac-aoc.fr

Cupcakes with Calvados

Ingredients for 12 white chocolate cupcakes with Calvados


100 g of sugar

120 g of flour

5 g of baking powder

120 g of melted butter

100 g of white chocolate

1 apple (sweet and crunchy)

5 cl of Calvados

10 g of butter

Decoration of the cupcake:

50 g icing sugar

5 cl of Calvados

25 g of butter

Preheat oven to 180° c/ Gas Mark 4.

Peel and dice the apple (1/2 cm pieces). Sauté them in a pan with 20g of butter and

drizzle with calvados for a few minutes until lightly coloured but still crunchy. Remove

from the heat.

Beat the egg whites and sugar together and add the flour and baking powder. Melt the

chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and add the melted butter, mix

together. Mix everything together with the chopped apple. Share the mix in cupcake

moulds and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

To decorate the cupcake, mix the icing sugar with softened butter and add a little

calvados. Put this mixture in a piping bag. When the cupcakes are cool, turn them out of

the mould and pipe the icing sugar mix. Serve with a glass of calvados.

What's new for

France in Summer 2018

A round up of some of the thrilling, fun and fabulous events on this summer from the

north to the south...

The National Sea centre of France on the Opal Coast at Boulogne-sur-Mer opened a

brand new state-of-the-art extension in spring 2018 which has made it one of the largest

aquariums in the world - and it is spectacular.

Giant tanks fill the new space and we mean giant... the biggest contains 10,000 m3 of

water! You’ll often spot divers in the tank cleaning the copious amount of glass while

sharks, sea lions and fish of all sorts swim close by. With clever and innovative exhibits

you get a real feel for what life is like under the ocean. With an astounding 58,000

creatures and 1,600 different species from sea lions and penguins to sharks (12 different

types), cayman and every kind of fish - you'll discover a truly fascinating and awesome

watery world where you can even get up close and personal with a huge touch pool!

If you’re travelling to or from Calais or Dunkirk, stop off and go see this awesome new

aquarium, it’s fascinating for the whole family from the littlest kids to nana and grandad.

And there's plenty to do in the town too!


Nimes Musée de la Romanite opens

Facing the 2000-year-old amphitheatre of Nimes,

a brand-new museum of Roman History, Musée

de la Romanité opened in June. Through

innovative scenography and rich archaeological

collections, you’ll discover the fascinating Gallo-

Roman period of the area. This incredible new

cultural venue will also house a brilliant book

store, captivating café and restaurant opened by

Michelin-starred chef Franck Putelat. There’s also

an archaeological and Mediterranean garden of

3,500 m² and there's a green roof terrace with a

panoramic view over the city. This brand-new

Museum of Roman History is going to be one of

the top attractions for visitors to Nimes.

The inaugural exhibition of the museum until

September 24, 2018, is dedicated to Gladiators,

the heroes of the coliseum.

More on the Museum of Roman History

Website Musee de la Romanite

ROOTSTOCK Burgundy 13-15 July 2018

Set in a 17th century winery in Burgundy, the Rootstock festival at the Chateau De

Pommard will feature a roster of chart-topping international acts, including British band

Jungle, Canadian group Soul Jazz Orchestra, Swiss band Le Roi Angus, and Nigerianborn

guitarist Keziah Jones. This international line-up will be completed with the French

pop electro group Isaac Delusion and a special Bastille Day DJ set of the unmissable

Breakbot. Forget muddy wellies and fields – this French festival involves the best

international music, fine wine and food, and you can also practice yoga and relax in

capable hands at a number of free spa and beauty workshops.


Lake Annecy to host Europe’s biggest fireworks show!

On Saturday 4 August, Annecy will host one of the biggest fireworks shows in Europe.

The 70-minute themed show will tell the story of two travellers using fireworks, music,

light, lasers, fountains and fire engines. Lake Annecy is internationally renowned for its

beautiful landscape and for the fantastic water quality which, thanks to the efforts

made to protect it for over 50 years, is now the purest in Europe. It hosts many sports

and has 11 supervised beaches for swimming. Annecy is just south of Lake Geneva near

the resorts of Annecy Mountains including Le Grand Bornand and La Clusaz.


La Piscine Roubaix, Lille

Fabulous Art Deco swimming pool turned art gallery at Roubaix, Lille, is closed for

renovation until October 20, 2018 when it will reopen with 5 great exhibitions including

Picasso's Man with a sheep. Find out more at: www.roubaix-lapiscine.com

Ateliers lumieres Paris

Photo credit: La Secession a Vienne/Culture Spaces

You don’t have to be an art buff to fall in love with Paris’s latest

cultural venue... located in a former iron foundry which has been

converted to a magnificent art gallery with a difference. Retaining

the building'd huge walls and industrial looks has provided the

perfect backdrop for giant projections of artworks which flow,

move to music and feel as though they envelop you into the heart

of a painting.

Details of the current exhibition and what’s next


Photo credit: Jean-Marie Charlot

Sedan, Ardennes is hot spot superstar

Sedan falls under the spotlight during the filming of a new BBC adaption of Les Misérables

- a non-musical, true to Victor Hugo's book. With an all star cast including Lily Collins,

Dominic West and David Olewayo and Sedan whose historic centre looks like 19th century

Paris. There's no air date yet but we reckon it's going to be brilliant. More on Sedan

La Boumette, Paris

From 22 June to the end of September, the

Opera restaurant at the foot of the Opera

Garnier turns into a night club at mignight with

DJ, dancing and music until the early hours of

the morning. If you fancy something a little less

energetic, from 22h enjoy a cocktail at the

Cointreau bar on the hidden terrace.

1 place Jacques Rouché.


Night time zoo visits

Every Thursday during June

through to 9th August 2018, the

Paris Zoo will remain open late to

offer visitors a unique experience.

Watch the animals nibble their

night time treats and enjoy your

own night owl night out with

snacks, drinks and dancing. On

July 5 there will a “silent zoo” night

when participants will wear

earphones and dance to the beat

without any disturbance to the


Join in at Apero’Zoo with Happy

Hour from 7.00 – 8.30 (half price

drinks menu), drinks served until



in Grenoble

and Vienne

How to spend a long weekend in Grenoble and Vienne. Two cities which dance to

a very different rhythm but make the perfect weekend escape says Lucy Pitts as

she explores the vibrant alpine cities...

The best place to start exploring is from the

18th century Bastille which watches over

the city from across the River Isère, 500

metres above. It’s a popular challenge for

runners and you can walk, run or catch the

iconic baubles of the 1920s cable car up to

the top.

The Bastille is the gateway to endless hiking

and mountain trails, but it also has zip lines,

a museum and a café. Most importantly

however, it provides you with a unique

aerial map of the city and a chance to eat at

the Chez le Pèr’Gras restaurant which

quietly presides over the view.

The Bohemian chic of


The district of Championnet outside the

historic centre has a village atmosphere and

a touch of bohemia. Here you’ll find clusters

of designers, unusual boutiques, art

galleries and workshops.

Tucked away in the Isère department of the

Auvergne Rhône Alpes region in the south

east of France, Grenoble bustles. It’s got a

cosmopolitan feel but also a sense of calm

probably due to the composed presence of

the Pre-Alpes that completely surround it.

But if you tend to only associate Grenoble

with winter sports, then think again.

Getting your bearings from


Although Grenoble has a modern feel, it has

a history that dates back to the Romans

which results in a blend of architecture and


As you’d expect, the Grenoblois value their

high-quality produce, and local specialities

include the Grenoble walnut, the Chartreuse

liqueur and of course cheese, from the soft

blue Vercors -Sassenage to the nutty Le


In Rue de Strausbourg, to the east of the

Hoche district, you’ll find victuallers in

abundance, including cheese specialist

Bernard Mure-Ravaud, a big personality

with a large moustache, a world champion

cheesemonger and voted France’s top

“tradesman” 2007.

He’s one of the driving forces behind the

annual Descent des Alpages in October. It's

an event which celebrates the return of the

local cattle from their summer alpine

grazing. There's a a parade of cows through

the streets of Grenoble and a showcasing of

local produce with hundreds of street stalls

and displays.

Make time for the arts

Grenoble has a rich artistic heritage which

caters for most tastes. The Musée de

Grenoble houses one of the most

prestigious and diverse collections in France

with 13th century masters to works by

Matisse, Picasso and Gauguin.

And as an acknowledgment of its vibrant

and youthful soul, the city also embraces

street art, with 86 recognised works on the

walls of the newer districts. Discover these

for yourself with the help of a map from the

tourist office or visit during the Street Art

Fest which takes place throughout June and

includes workshops and exhibitions.

is a good place to buy the gourmand and

there are plenty of open air bars and

restaurants that fill the central Place St

André with its grand fountain and stunning

Renaissance style parliamentary buildings.

Recommendations for places to eat include

The Café de la Table Ronde (the second

oldest café in France) and L’Epicurien in the

Place aux Herbes.

Unwind in the historic city


Of course, you have to find time to meander

the streets of the historic centre and explore

the markets. The Marché Place aux Herbes

Photo: Diane Francis Cook

Follow the Romans to Vienne

An hour’s drive from Grenoble Vienne sits

on the banks of the Rhône Just south of


The tourist office even organises cookery

workshops during which you’ll shop for local

ingredients with your chef in the market and

then prepare a meal.

It was an important Roman settlement which

means 16th and 17th century half timbered

houses jockey for position with Roman walls

and remains. Narrow cobbled streets

reminiscent of Lyon give way to a startingly

beautiful Roman Temple surrounded by

bars and cafés.

Photo: Patrick Ageneau, Vienne Tourism

The town is home to an impressive tourist

office next to the Rhône. They offer a range

of tours which include a €7 tram ride up to

Mont Pipet which has views over the town

and the Roman amphitheatre.

Amongst other options, you can also opt for

a “circuit gourmand” which is a tour and

tasting of local products or a sunset tour on

a wooden barge with a glass of wine.

Dusk over Vienne, photo: Henry Landeau, Vienne Tourism

Throughout the year the city is also home to

the second largest market in France with

some 400 stalls and in October Vienne hosts

a honey fair. Or you can head to the

surrounding hills to try some of the 120

different jams made by one of France’s finest

producers Philippe Bruneton, a 20-minute

drive away.

Vienne and Grenoble both offer culture, the

arts, fine architecture, gourmand cuisine and

outdoor activities. Isère has a rich landscape

with both a hint of Provence and Savoie and

a warm and welcoming climate.

From the grandeur of the Rhône to the calm

and serenity of the silent Pre-Alpes, this is a

region that indulges the soul.


A taste of the region’s wines

For lovers of the grape, there’s a wall of

wine in the tourist office which maps the

region’s winemakers and the wines of the

local Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu regions and

helps you plan any tastings.

That done, explore some of the local

vineyards such as the extraordinarily

romantic family-owned Domaine Corps de

Loup which lay abandoned for 50 years.

With ramshackled 18th century charm, it

clings to the hillside in amongst the trees

just 10 minutes outside Vienne.

Jazz and jam

During the first two weeks of July, Vienne is

home to a remarkable jazz festival. With

open air concerts, a main performance in

the candlelit amphitheatre, this year’s artists

include none other than Gregory Porter, Jeff

Beck and Earth Wind and Fire! Read more

about Vienne's Jazz festival here

Vienne and Grenoble are both about 40

minutes from Grenoble airport by car.

Ryanair flights from London Stansted to

Grenoble Airport start from £9.99 one way

and run from until the 27 October 2018


A 2-night stay at the 4* Mercure Grenoble

Center Alpotel, is priced from €89 with

breakfast based on two sharing.

A 2-night stay at the 3* Ibis Saint-Louis

hotel Place Saint-Louis in Vienne, is priced

from €100 with breakfast based on two


Car hire is available from Grenoble airport

with Hertz www.hertz.com and starts from


For more help planning your trip contact the

tourist offices at www.grenoble-tourisme.

com or in Vienne at www.vienne-condrieu.


The Abbey de Senanque,


Visiting the 12th century

Abbaye Notre-Dame de

Sénanque in May before its

renowned lavender fields

had burst into vibrant

bloom, Martha McCormick

discovered equal beauty in

its austere Romanesque


Located near Gordes in Provence, the

abbey is occupied by a community of

Cistercian monks. The Roman Catholic

Cistercian Order grew from a late 11th

century reform movement started by monks

who wished to return to the pure traditions of

monastic life practiced in Saint Benedict’s


Following the strictures of Cistercian design,

the abbey lacks decorations such as

frescoes, sculptures, or stained glass

windows with Biblical illustrations.

According to the early founders, these

ornamentations were meant for lay people

who had little access to the Bible.

Decoration brought them closer to God. For

the devout monks, however, such

embellishment was unnecessary and would

distract them from prayer. Thus, the

decorative elements allowed are those of

the architecture itself: vaults, arches,

stairways, transepts, capitals and columns.

These were constructed using the finest

methods because the Cistercian monks

highly valued craftsmanship. Stonecutters

were particularly prized, and each initialed

the stones they cut as a matter of pride.

One might think this austerity creates a

rather drab place. But instead, the austere

décor heightens the beauty of the pale gray

stone and the purity of line.

Added to this is the welcoming of light: la

vrai Lumière—the true light—a symbol of


According to an early founder, Saint

Bernard: “…shadow and darkness shall

disappear and the splendor of the true Light

will invade the whole space…”

Far left: For the monks, the cloister is a symbol of “Paradise

regained.” It stands at the heart of the monastery. Here

monks find a natural spot for silent prayer and meditation.

Above: The play of light and the simplicity of architectural

structure create serene beauty.

The Abbey of Senanque today

At its peak in the 13th and 14th centuries,

Sénanque abbey owned extensive

properties all over Provence, including four

water mills, seven granges, and four or five

hospices, in addition to fields, forests and

pastures. Troubled times followed when the

abbey was partly destroyed during the War

of Religions in the 16th century, and later

was sold off as state property after the


In 1854, it was purchased and restored by a

community of monks, who were later

expelled. The current community dates

back to 1988.

Today, the monks still follow the precepts of

Cistercian monastic life: liturgical prayer

sung in church; silent reading, meditation

and prayer; and manual and intellectual

work. The brothers work in agriculture

(lavender, honey, and forestry) and tourism

(guided tours, bookshop, and building


The shop is very much worth a visit, offering

the monks’ honey and lavender products, a

wide selection of religious and historical

books, and many other gifts.

Tours of the abbey are offered year-round,

but hours vary - check the website for

specific times. Individuals who wish to tour

the abbey without a guide are admitted in

the morning.

One-hour guided group tours are offered in

French throughout the day. When I joined

a guided tour, I let the guide know that my

French was not great. She kindly spoke

more slowly and enunciated clearly,

allowing me to understand much of what

she said.

If you are lucky enough to visit the Abbaye

de Sénanque when the lavender fields

bloom - between late June and early-

August - the colors of the blue sky, pale

gray stone, green leaves, and purple

flowers are guaranteed to enchant.

There is no better place to enjoy the

lavender fields of Provence.

But do take time to step inside the abbey to

view another world—one of silence,

monochromatic splendor, and the presence

of la vrai Lumière.


Click here to read

about the best places

to see the lavender in

Provence and how to

avoid the crowds

20 Things to

do in Toulouse

We're out to tempt you - culture, food, wine

and more, the sunny city has loads to keep you

fully entertained!

1 Place du Capitole

The Place du Capitole is the beating heart of Toulouse. Located in this immense square is

a magnificent building, remarkable for its façade with eight pink marble columns which

houses the town hall and the opera house. Pop in and ogle at the Salle des Illustres with its

spectacular 19th century paintings on the ceiling and walls, as well as the magnificent

historical rooms of painters Jean-Paul Laurens, Henri Martin and Paul Gervais.


Cité de l'Espace

Channel your inner spaceman and try your

hand, or rather your feet, at moon walking

in a moon gravity simulator at this

fascinating Space City adventure park

which spans an incredible 5 hectares.

Gaze at the stars, climb a full-size rocket

and much more in Europe’s premier

astronomy and space science culture


Photo © Cite de l’Espace

In the summer each Thursday evening,

listen to the fireworks pop at Cité de

l’Espace, right next to the Ariane 5 rocket.

The late-night opening also allows visitors

to star gaze through telescopes in the



3 Reach for the sky

Visit the Aeroscopia museum where you’ll discover a unique collection of more than 30

legendary planes, including two Concordes, a Super Guppy and the A400M. Toulouse is

the birthplace of global civil and military aviation, and Aeroscopia perfectly represents its

rich aviation heritage. This summer there’s an exhibition dedicated to the evergreen Tintin


4 Walk the Walk

Get in touch with Toulouse’s secrets and take

a walking tour with the tourist office to discover

the city’s hidden art and architectural gems.

Cross the Pont Neuf and discover the

cosmopolitan district of Saint-Cyprien, a

vibrant district where you’ll find the Passerelle

Viguerie, a 140m long walkway above the

water alongside the Hopital de la Grave, you’ll

get goose bumps at the views over Toulouse.

There are plenty of little restaurants with a

Bohemian ambiance, a covered market and

popular bars.

The buzz of the town centre is a constant

reminder of the exuberant life of Toulouse.

Weave your way through narrow cobblestone

streets and small squares to discover the

Saint-Étienne quarter, brimming with secret

and quirky charms.

Toulouse tourist office organizes an English

language city tour “Great monuments of

Toulouse” every Saturday afternoon.

5 Meet & Greet

Be bowled over by the Greeters tales as

they take you on a tour of the city. There

are 31 volunteers in Toulouse most of

whom speak English and they love to

share their knowledge of Toulouse in this

not for profit service.



See the sites

Photo © Toulouse Tourisme

In the city take a tour to discover 2000

years of history. Go by Segway, petit

train, tram, open top mini bus, on foot,

by bike or metro and discover the iconic

monuments and beautiful coloured

buildings that give the city its name “la

ville rose”. There are numerous

fabulous sites such as the ancient

Jacobins Convent, the beautiful Saint-

Sernin Basilica which has been lavishly

renovated revealing the full glory of its

medieval frescoes and murals, plus the

Hôtel d’Assézat a magnificent 17th

century town house which houses the

Fondation Bemberg a private museum

of paintings and objets d’art.

Though known as the pink city,

Toulouse offers many colours and it’s

the perfect starting point for a cycling

tour along the banks of the blue water

of the city’s river and canal. Bikes and

tandems can be rented at La Maison du

vélo, located on the banks of the Canal

du Midi.

Pick up a “Pass de Tourism” at the

tourist office to use public transport and

get entry to a whopping 55 attractions.

7The 240km long Canal du Midi was built under

the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, and flows

from Sète to Toulouse. It was listed as a World

Heritage Site in 1996. Make the most of the

sunshine with a relaxing boat trip on the River

Garonne or the Canal du Midi or take a bike ride

alongside the water, the feel good factor is



Sparkling and cool

Flea market fun

Browse at the monthly flea market on the first

weekend of every month, from Friday to Sunday.

Visit the daily book and flower markets for local

colour and culture.


Summer in the city

Toulouse plages, the city beaches will be set in

several locations this summer: the prairie des

filtres, the port viguerie (recently renovated) with

a Ferris Wheel and the Espace bazacle…


Lip-smacking Cassoulet

Photo © CRTMP D Viet

The spicy, meaty, unctuous and utterly

mouth-watering stew with haricot beans

is one of the most famous specialities of

the region and there are plenty of

restaurants dishing it up. With a lovely

sunny climate, eating outdoors is the

order of the day. In the city of Toulouse,

the cassoulet boasts Toulouse

sausage, another regional speciality,

and you’ll find plenty of tree lined

elegant squares, like Place St Pierre,

where you can sit and enjoy watching

the world go by and revel in the luxury

of al fresco dining late into the night.


Open air markets

Photo © Toulouse Tourism Marche de Saint Aubin

There’s loads of choice for a spot of mooching at a market in Toulouse. One of the best is

the atmospheric more than 100 year old Victor Hugo covered market, with its 100-plus

active stalls – a great place for foodies to discover the local cheeses, charcuterie, wines,

herbs and the freshest fruit and veg.

On a Sunday morning don't miss the picturesque marché held around the church Eglise St

Aubin, it's a "bobo" (bohemian bourgeois) style affair with clothes, flowers, spices and

great produce on offer - it’s like a village within a village.

12 Gourmet city 13 Bake my day

With 9 Michelin-starred restaurants in

Toulouse metropolis and +1,700 places to

eat, the city is one of the country’s best

served in terms of restaurants.

Toulouse A Table 5-8 September sees a

city wide festive feast take place -


Details: www.toulouseatable.com

Try a local speciality cake - Le Fenetra, a

typical “gateau Toulousain” made from

candied lemons and almonds, one of the

best-kept secret recipes of the Occitanie

region. You’ll find it in specialist bakeries

and the Salon de Thé in Toulouse.




A show-stopper market and a place

of tempting aromas. Head to the first

floor of this 100 year old market

where you’ll discover a fabulous

bistro called L'Impériale – impossible

to not be intoxicated by the delicious

smells of the freshly cooked food,

their cassoulet is divine!

Photo copyright Jane Gifford




Used for dyeing and as a medicinal

plant since antiquity, Isatis Tinctoria

was cultivated in the Lauragais,

between Toulouse, Albi and

Carcassonne. Its blue pigment was

exported throughout Europe and

used as a dye for textiles. Having

earned a fortune, the pastel

merchants had sumptuous private

mansions built in Toulouse. Visit

Terre de Pastel, an unusual complex

that combines, museum-spaboutique-restaurant

showcasing the



Jardin des plantes

The beautiful botanical gardens are a perfect place to chill out and smell the roses and

other flowers right next to the Museum of Toulouse. You’ll find the museum mascots, the

colourful peacocks, preening and primping, and if you’re lucky you’ll even spot a baby one!

It’s also a great place for a snack at Le Moaï café (and there’s free WiFi here too).

17 Flower power

Violets are the flower of Toulouse. The

little purple petals have been cultivated

here since 1854 and this species is a

cousin of the fragrant Parma violet.

They’re an important part of the heritage

of Toulouse and you can enjoy the scent

and discover the history of the violet at

the Maison de la Violette barge which is

moored on the Canal du Midi in the city.

Each February there’s a grand fete to

celebrate the violet at the spectacular

Place du Capitole.

Photo copyright Jane Gifford



There are more than 1000 events

annually in Toulouse, summer soirees

are often very lively and the “fiesta” is

popular. Don’t miss the Les Siestes

Electroniques (June-July) and Toulouse

d’Eté (July-August).

The unique Festival Toulouse les

Orgues is held each October and

features one of the best collections of

organs in Europe. Additionally, in 2018,

concerts of 30 minutes will be played at

6pm from Wednesday to Saturday and

at 3pm on Sundays, 18-29 July in

Saint-Sernin basilica.


Musical Magic

On Thursday at midday listen to free

concerts. The eclectic programme

attracts a crowd of admiring spectators

in the municipal hall of the Sénéchal in

winter and in the courtyard of the Ostal

d’Occitania when the weather is fine.


Monster madness

Toulouse will celebrate its role as European capital of space and aeronautics with a new

venue to represent the Aeropostale (airmail) adventure and the first pilots who were brave

enough to travel by plane. La Piste des Géants (Trail of Giants) will feature a dedicated

garden to transport you across the Aeropostale line (opens June 2017). There will also be

a museum dedicated to the aviation pioneers, and La Halle la Machine with more than 100

mechanical creatures built by François Delarozière (end 2018). November 1-4 Toulouse

will host the world premiere show of “The Guardian of the Temple”, created by François

Delaroziere and the French theatre production company La Machine. For an hour each

day, a giant minotaur will walk through the city centre to celebrate of the opening of “La

Piste des Géants”.

Details and lots more information: Toulouse Tourism

The best

markets in

France -

its official!

Everyone loves a French street market - from the visitors who flock to France to

experience the good life to the locals who shop at their favourite each week. There are

markets in almost every town and village or at least there will be one nearby. From the

grand street marché s, to covered markets, called Les Halles, to the authentic street

markets of Paris and in tiny villages where there may be only a few stalls, everyone has

their favourite. This year in France, a contest aimed to discover – which is the most loved

market of the French? The “Votre Plus Beau Marche” competition run by TV channel TF1

was hugely popular with voters. 25 contenders went through to the finals and when voting

ended in May 2018 there was a clear winner – lovely Sanary-sur-Mer in the Var

Department, Provence-Alpes-Cote-D’Azur.

We look at the winner and the contenders…

Sanary-sur-mer Market Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

The colour, scents, sounds and flavours of

this vibrant market on the edge of the

Mediterranean Sea make it a real stand out,

happy place to be. The town is located in

the heart of Provence, between Marseille

and Toulon and its wiggly streets are filled

with beautiful buildings. At the friendly

market you’ll find around 300 stalls. Honey,

olive oil, wine, cheese, spices, fruit and veg

plus of course the freshest sea food are on

offer. And you’ll find colourful baskets,

flowers, pottery and table cloths. Wander

under the shady plane trees along the

Allées Estienne d'Orves and soak up the


It gets busy in the summer months and will

probably be even more so now that it’s been

recognised as France’s favourite market, so

get there early to avoid the crowds and if

you need a parking space, have more

chance of finding one (there’s plenty of paid


Pick up ingredients for a fabulous French

picnic and head to the local beach afterwards

to enjoy it while watching the world go


Market day: Wednesday 08h-13h


Colmar Market

Colmar, Alsace

The market in the town of Colmar has been

going for more than 150 years. In days gone

by market gardeners would arrive by boat

with their wares using the canals that cross

Colmar giving it the nickname Little Venice.

The lovely old city of half-timbered houses

looks like a scene out of fairy tale and it’s the

perfect location for a spot of shopping.

Expect to see plenty of local specialities at

the market from pretzels to sauerkraut.

Covered market daily except Monday;

Wednesday street market, Quartier Est

Quai du Roi, Orleans

A lively food only market held on the banks

of the Loire River. Local produce including

mushrooms, wine and cheese - delicious!

Saturday 07.30-12.30

Belfort Market Franche-Comté

Located on Rue Dr Frery this foodie covered

market is held in a spacious 100 year old

building with huge arched windows in an

Eiffel-like metal structure. Foodie perfection.

Wednesday 07h-12h

Amboise, Loire Valley

A short walk from the city centre, this large

market is one of the most popular in the

region and is a former favorite market.

Sunday and Friday mornings

Cahors Market Midi-Pyrenees

A 700 year-old market at the foot of a

UNESCO World heritage site, the

magnificent Saint-Etienne cathedral,

fabulous local produce make this a


Wednesday and Saturday mornings

Uzès market Languedoc-Roussillon

In the centre of town, in the enchanting Place

aux Herbes the market oozes charm.

Spectacularly tasty and oh-so pretty...

Wednesday and Saturday mornings



Great atmosphere, fabulous food in a

stunning building that has inspired painters

to capture its vibrant good looks. A must see

in the area.

Saturday morning

L'Île-Rousse Market Corsica

Housed in an almost two centuries old

building, a classified historic monument,

small but the food is outstanding.


Puy-en-Velay Auvergne

The market has taken place since the 15th

century in the elegant squares of this town.

Delectable dairy and scrumptious produce.

Wednesday and Saturday mornings

Nancy Market Lorraine

A lovely covered market which has been

open since 1848 on the site of a market held

since the 15th century. Superb produce.

Tuesday to Saturday 7h-19h

Versailles Market, Ile de France

Feast like a king at this fabulous and vibrant

market. It's so worth the trip if you're in the


Tuesday, Friday and Sunday from 7h to 14h;

indoor covered market daily except Monday.

Royan Market Poitou-Charentes

Held in a dramatic 1950s building - excellent

produce. Came second in the contest!

Daily 7h-13h

Issigeac Market Dordogne

Colourful market in a beautiful location and

a major attraction in the area.

Sunday morning

Arras Market Nord Pas de Calais

At the foot of France's favourite monument,

the Belfry of Arras, is a grand market on the

Places des Heroes, where it's been held

since the Middle Ages. It spreads into

surrounding streets and is a busy, bustling

affair with all things foodie, clothes and

household goods.

Wednesday and Saturday mornings

Vannes Market Brittany

Held in the historic centre, it has a great

atmosphere. Mainly food and clothes.

Wednesday and Saturday mornings

Brive-la-Gaillarde Limousin

In the historic centre the weekly market is an

institution for the locals and a must see for

visitors. Great local produce, friendly and

authentic. With more than 300 stalls, its a

grand market and one you won't leave

empty handed - far too much temptation.

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday morning

Troyes Market Champagne-Ardenne

Covered market selling scrumptious

cheeses, bread and more.


Dieppe, Normandy

A large friendly, bustling market with around

200 exhibitors, superb shopping for local

specialities from cider to fish.

Saturday morning

Saint-Valery-sur-Somme Picardie

With stalls laid out alongside the quay and

fabulous views over the Somme Bay, this

authentic, charming market is simply lovely.

Sunday Morning

Toucy Market Burgundy

There's been a market in Toucy since the

Middle Ages. It's held in the streets

whatever the weather and it's THE place to

go for the freshest veg and artisan products

like cheese and bread.

Saturday Morning

Nantes market Pays de la Loire

Talensac indoor market, almost 100 years

old, is the only covered market market in

Nantes, located in the Hauts-Pavés, Saint-

Félix district. One of the best known and

most popular markets in the department.

Daily except Monday 07h - 13.30h

Saint Lo Market, Normandy

A very popular market, lots of lush local

products and a real winner in terms of fun,

friendliness and fabulous food.

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and

Saturdays on place Général de Gaulle

Photo © P Vincent ND Lourdes


The French Capital of Miracles...

Kevin Pilley visits the famous pilgimage site...

Photo © Studio GP Photos

The giant candles kept on arriving. The

wheelchairs stacked up along the banks of

the Gave river. Nuns and nurses kissed the

ground. The queues for the baths


A hunched-up old lady in a black shawl

whispered to the wall, petitioning the

rockface. “In your heart I place all my

anguish and it is there that I gain strength

and courage.”

Pushed towards the famous Massabeille

grotto a frail hollow-cheeked man in a bathchair,

a rug over his knees, reading from a

small book muttered “Mary you showed

yourself to Bernadette in the crevice of the

rock in the cold and grey of winter. You are

the Immaculate Conception. Come to aid

the sinners that we are. Guide us to the

source of true life. Teach us to pray for all


Some of the faithful walked the steep

wooded 15-station “Way of the Cross” up on

the hill of Espelugues, above the

Sanctuaries. Others held their hands under

the stainless-steel taps and sluiced their

faces with holy water. Some were at prayer

in the underground basilica. Some fed the

ducks from the Bridge of Baths. Others sat in

deep contemplation on benches and chairs,

their eyes closed eyes listening to the

outside Mass.

Lourdes, also called Doors, in the Hautes-

Pyrenees department, 175km west of

Toulouse, has 15000 inhabitants but attracts

25000 visitors - every day. They come to see

a marble statue in a rock ledge in a cave and

to be welcomed by the out-stretched arms of

the Basilica Rosarie. 66 masses are said

each day in forty places of worship within the

51-hectare sacred complex. In France, only

Paris has more hotels than Lourdes. Charter

flights and trains bring in six million pilgrims

each year.

“Everyone is welcome and expected here

“ said a young Irish priest. He was holding a

two-metre high vigil candle. 750 tonnes of

candles are burnt every year at Lourdes.

There is a torchlight procession every night

at 9pm from April to October. Thousands

take part. “The candles represent God’s

presence. The flickering flame His

illuminating light. The white candles signify a

divine pillar of cloud.”

He smiled. “They are a test of faith as they

are very heavy”.

“The disabled, diseased and marginalized

are in the majority here“ said an English

pilgrim. He was carrying a 2-litre plastic jerry

can of complimentary cave water. “Pope

John Paul 11 said Lourdes is the place

where heaven and earth pursue a dialogue.

“Lourdes is a very special. It has been

blessed. Some come for adoration. Or

consolation. Or confession. To call for

intercession or renew their baptismal vows.

Or remember the Beatitudes. Others just to

observe. Hope and fraternity are palpable

here. Kindness too. You find yourself in a

sea of people devoted to the service of


160 years since the first

apparation at Lourdes

2018 sees the 160th anniversary of the first

apparition when on February 11th the Virgin

Mary appeared to fourteen-year-old

Bernadette Soubirous while she was

collecting firewood. Seventeen apparitions

of “Aquero” (the lady) followed until July


You can follow the “Jubilee Walk “and see

Bernadette’s birthplace and “le cachot” (or

dungeon) in the Rue Petits-Fosses where

she lived in poverty after her father lost his

mill business and cholera struck the town.

You can also visit the church where she

received her first Communion and the

nearby village of Bartres where she tended


Bernadette described her apparition as 'uo

petito damizelo' ("a young girl"). At first, she

mistook it for a demonic apparition thinking it

a “revenant” or soul returning from

purgatory. The apparition did not speak until

the third appearance and in Occitan, the

local patois. It suggested she used a lighted

candle for protection. Thus the torchlight

procession. The small figure in the flowing

white robe and roses on her feet told

Bernadette to build chapels and kiss the

ground as penance. On her ninth visitation

she showed the shepherd girl a miraculous


Photo © Santuaries ND Lourdes P Vincent

Lourdes doesn’t have a local monopoly of

supernatural events. In Betharram near

Lourdes some shepherds saw a vision of a

ray of light which guided them to a statue of

the Virgin Mary. In the early sixteenth

century, a twelve-year-old shepherdess

named Angleze de Sagazan claimed a

vision near a spring at Garaison. Her story is

strikingly similar to that of Bernadette. Pious

but illiterate, she successfully convinced

authorities that her vision was genuine.

There are also several similarities between

the apparition at La Salette near Grenade,

predating Lourdes by eleven years.

Bernadette’s apparitions were not

recognized until 1862. The statue of Notre

Dame de Lourdes was installed in the

Massabeille (meaning old rock) grotto two

years later. Bernadette died in Nevers

convent in 1879 and was canonized in 1933.

Her body was exhumed three times and

found to be “incorrupt”.

but only 70 recognized by the Lourdes

Medical Bureau, a group of theologians and

doctors charged with investigating claims.

Meanwhile, as I stood watching, thousands

continued to process. Three boy scouts

carried a 1.5-metre-long candle. A voice

intoned ”Saloe, Regina; mater misericordia,

vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, saloe”. Another

beside me whispered “Ave Maria Gratia

plena Dominus tecum Virgo serena”.

Then, as the processions of pilgrims moved

another few yards: “O Mary our mother we

come to this place where you who are

sinless appeared full of grace.”

A teenage boy processing a handicapped girl

told me “You learn a lot from coming to

Lourdes. One hundred countries are

represented here every day. It’s a

transfiguring place. You can’t help be moved

and touched. Whatever your beliefs you feel

belief. “

There have been over 7000 claimed “cures”

Photo © Santuaires ND Lourdes

Photo Barbara Summers

Lourdes Tourist Office

The latest Miracle

The last miracle involving Sister

Bernadette Moriau happened in 2008 and

was recognized in 2013.

The nun was 69 years old when she

visited the shrine in Lourdes and attended

a blessing of the sick ceremony. She had

undergone several spinal operations

several decades before, had been

disabled since 1980 and was confined to

a wheelchair ,suffering great pain.

Photo Lizandra Lerm O'Kennedy

On returning to her convent in Beauvais

she prayed in the Chapel and felt a

feeling of well being and heard a voice tell

her to remove her braces. She was soon

walking and without pain. The Committee

of Lourdes declared that the changes

were inexplicable and a miracle.

Understated Luxury:

The Coco Chanel Suite,

the Ritz Paris

If money is no object, the Coco Chanel Suite in the Paris Ritz is a deliciously

luxurious stay. Barb Harmon visits the suite – but doesn’t stay overnight…

The Coco Chanel Suite

Coco Chanel once declared: "The Ritz is my

home." Although she had a luxurious

apartment above her shop across the street,

still there at 31 rue Cambon, she moved to

the Ritz in 1937 making suite No. 302 her

own. It remained her home until her death in


In her honour the room was renamed The

Coco Chanel Suite and made available for

booking, to the delight of Chanel fans


In 2012, the hotel closed for an extensive

four-year renovation. While 80 percent of the

hotel's original items were refurbished, some

pieces were put in storage or auctioned.

Although none of Chanel’s personal items

were included, some furnishings from her

suite were, and they set record prices.

revamped Coco Chanel Suite

The Channel suite has been moved down a

floor (suite 202) to provide a better view of

Place Vendôme and its famous column. It’s a

stunning scene, one that inspired the

octagonal cap on Chanel’s first perfume,

Chanel No. 5.

Karl Lagerfeld, the enigmatic designer and

creative director of Chanel, collaborated with

the Ritz’s design team to recreate Chanel's

world, from fabrics to furniture and the whole

look of the space.

Step inside Chanel’s world

Enter through the softly swishing door of the

Suite and you step into a room that is

unmistakably Chanel. The colour palette is

black, white and shades of beige. At 188m

(2024ft ) the two-bedroom, two-bathroom

suite is larger than many homes. While

luxurious, the living room is comfortable and

is an idyllic spot to lounge with a glass of

wine or sip a cup of coffee, soaking up the

ambience. In front of the ornate fireplace is

a comfy suede sofa trimmed with brass nail

heads, a design based on Chanel's sofa

from her rue Cambon apartment. It’s a

spacious room with several seating and

designated work areas. The large windows

provide plenty of light.

An immense sparkling chandelier

showcases the decorative soaring ceiling.

Several small bookcases contain books on

Chanel as well as objets d' art. There are

sketches by Karl Lagerfeld in the entrance

and throughout the suite are never-seenbefore

archive photos of Chanel during her

time at the Ritz. It is in effect, a mini Chanel


The living room separates two spacious

bedrooms, the ultra-posh bedding begs you

to lie down for a quick afternoon nap. Here

you'll find Goossens gilt-framed mirrors,

more photos of Chanel, and the holy grail,

lacquered Coromandel screens gleaming

with a rich patina. Chanel started collecting

antique Coromandel screens during her

days with her English polo playing lover, Boy

Capel. She owned dozens.

The table lamps and sconces in the

bedrooms and throughout the suite were

inspired by Alberto Giacometti and Jean-

Michel Frank, contemporaries of Chanel.

While the designs are vintage, they are

modern in every sense. These two, like

Chanel, were ahead of the times.

Both bathrooms scream Chanel: sink faucet

handles are engraved with her name, deep

tubs are perfect for relaxing, there is plenty

of natural light. The vanity table stands

ready to hold your collection of Chanel

products. These are functional bathrooms,

they aren't fussy. The fluffy towels are a soft

peach, a signature of the Ritz Paris.

It’s not cheap to stay in this fabulous suite

but there are some truly special add-ons.

The rates range from €18000-€28000 for a

single night. This does however include

some great perks: a greeter at the door of

your plane and express fast-track

immigration procedures. Round trip

limousine airport transfers and flexible

check-in and check-out times are available.

You’ll also have unlimited access to the Ritz

Club (pool and fitness room with state-ofthe-art-equipment).

Chanel once said: "Luxury must be

comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury."

Chanel was right.

Ritz Paris

15 Place Vendôme


Spotlight on



Head to this district in the suburbs of Paris for its

incredible Basilica, last resting place of the Kings

and Queens of France. Janine Marsh explores...

Saint Denis is a suburb of Paris located

10km north of the city centre. This district

took its name from a Christian Martyr buried

there after being beheaded on nearby

Montmartre (circa 250 AD). It was said that

he carried his head to the site of the current

Basilica of Saint Denis indicating where he

wanted to be buried.His tomb became a

place of worship on which a chapel was built

and he is the patron Saint of France.

Saint Denis the district, is the last resting

place of many kings and queens of France,

buried in the enormous Cathedral Basilica of


Culture Vulture

The Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis was the

world's first monumental masterpiece of

Gothic art. Work began on the main building

in 1122 thouth there was a church there

before. The royal necropolis houses the

tombs of 75 French kings and queens, and

63 princes and princesses through the


It contains some incredible funerary

sculptures, many of them depicting the royal

likenesses, dating from the 12th to 16th

centuries. Inside the church is bathed in the

light of 12th and 19th century stained glass

windows. Hire an audio guide to learn the

incredible history of this enormous church.

The Museum of Art and History, housed in

an old Carmelite convent, has rich

collections reflecting the city's history. It also

has lovely gardens that are just perfect for

resting on a hot Paris day. Details: museesaint-denis.com

Where to Eat

In this suburban district there are plenty of

restaurants and traditional French

brasseries but it's an easy metro journey

into the centre of Paris for many more


Locals love: Les Mets du Roy, a traditional

brasserie opposite the Basilica (4 rue de la


Have a snack: La La Bigoudène Café

serves pancakes and great coffee plus

snacks (11 Allée des 6 Chapelles).

Close by at Saint-Ouen (see Inside Track)

there are a plethora of quirky and charming

restaurants such as Le Bistrot Paul Bert (18

rue Paul Bert) which serves exceptionally

good food. The market streets are lined with

dozens of authentic and enchanting little

cafés like The Very Little Dining Room,

(Allee 3 Marche Serpette 110 rue des


Best Bars

There are plenty of bars, and with a young

population, this district has an energetic air.

Not far away is the historic area of

Montmartre where you'll find even more

choice - though it is a tourist magnet night

and day. The area of Abesses is where the

locals head to for an evening of Paris


Popular with the locals: L’Escargot for its

friendly ambience (6 Rue Gabriel Péri) and

also Le Khedive (3 Place Victor Hugo) by

the Basilica Saint-Denis.

Great atmosphere: Brasserie 3ème Mitemps

(which means 3rd half time!) (33 rue

Jules Rimet) right by the Stade de France).

Traditional: Le Basilica (2 rue de la

Boulangerie) opposite the Basilica of Saint-

Denis, there's a large terrace, perfect to sip

in the sun, often with music over lunch.

The Inside Track

The biggest, most famous and best flea

markets in France. The Marchés aux Puces

de Saint-Ouen have been going for almost

150 years and are one of the largest

markets for antiques and flea markets in the

world. Set in 7 hectares, with more than

2000 exhibitors and 14 different markets.

Hunt for a bargain or a one-off item from

antiques to classic luxury goods, restored

furniture, paintings, bronzes, tapestries,

mirrors, lamps and dishes and much more.

It's also a great place for bars, restaurants

and cafés in a unique atmosphere.

Metro: Garibaldi, line 13.

Saint Ouen Flea Market Paris

A walk in the park: From the station of St-

Denis you can walk along the canal (5.5km)

to Parc Villette, the largest urban cultural

park in Paris. There are lots of cafés to sit

and while away a few hours whilst the sun

plays on the surface of the water.

Locals love: The Abbesses district just a

few kilometres away. It has a villagey feel

despite being at the foot of Montmartre.

There are charming little squares, lots of

bars and a relaxed atmosphere.

Montmartre is very close to Saint Denis and

is a must-see on any Paris visit. Yes there

are throngs of tourists but there's a reason

for that. Escape the crowds at the lovely

Musée de Montmartre, (rue de Cortot) once

home to Auguste Renoir. An outstanding

exhibition of artwork by local artists

including Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani.

From the charming gardens you can peek

into the secret vineyards of Paris next door.

Take a Selfie

It has to be, the Basilica Saint-Denis.

Getting Around

Buy a Paris Transport Travel Card for

unlimited travel on the metro, RER (rail), bus

and tram networks in Paris and the suburbs.

A 1, 2, 3 or 5 day pass covering zones 1-5

(including Versailles) is great value and

saves you from queuing for tickets. Buy a

pass at stations and tourist offices. St Denis

is serviced by Metro line 13 and goes

directly to the Champs-Elysées and Les

Invalides from where you can pick up the

RER Line C to the Eiffel Tower.

How to Get There

Eurostar from London to Paris takes just

under 2 hours 16minutes from where it’s a

simple trip to Saint-Denis from Gare du Nord

by RER Line B


Every weekend, we invite

you to share your photos

on Facebook - it's a great

way for everyone to see

"real" France and be

inspired by real travellers

snapping pics as they go.

Every week there are

utterly gorgeous photos

being shared and here we

showcase the most popular

of each month. Share your

favourite photos with us on

Facebook - the most "liked"

will appear in the next issue

of The Good Life France



Rainy day in


Burgundy by Don



The lovely town of Azay-Le-

Rideau, Loire, shimmering in

the rain...

Charles Johnston

Join us on Facebook

and like and share

your favourite photos

of France...

Lavender in Provence by Kim

Rusche Tulman (+8,000 likes

and shares!)


Click here to discover where to see the lavender in Provence

G i v e A

Click on the pic to

enter the draw

Win a copy of My Good Life in France by

Janine Marsh, editor of The Good Life


On a grey and dismal February day, Janine Marsh went

on a day trip to France to buy wine for her dad. She

somehow ended up buying a bargain basement barn in

the middle of nowhere which was neither planned or

expected... It’s a love story and the tale of one woman’s

journey from city life to rural bliss – at least that was the


Click on the pic to

enter the draw

Win a copy of Le Selfie Gascon

by Perry Taylor

Le Selfie Gascon is Perry's third book of

humorous drawings from France. It’s a work

of wry wit and lots of fun from the artist who

takes inspiration from daily life in the south

of France. This is a lovely hardback book

with 86 original drawings that will make you

smile, your friends will want to borrow this

one and never return it!

Click on the pic to

enter the draw

Win a copy of Eight

Months in Provence by

Diane Covington-Carter

Win a copy of this book that's written

from the heart, a charming tale that's

easy to read. An inspiring "it's never

too late", feel good memoir that will

sweep you along on the author's

journey as she finds herself in the

France of her dreams. At the age of

50, American Diane rented out her

home and set off for an adventure in


Read our review

w a y s - WIN

Click on the pic to

enter the draw

Win a copy of In the French

Kitchen with kids by Mardi


Mardi shows that French food doesn’t have to

be complicated. The result is an elegant,

approachable cookbook featuring recipes

tailored for young chefs and their families.

From savory dishes like Omelettes, Croque-

Monsieurs or Steak Frites to sweet treats like

Profiteroles, Madeleines or Crème Brûlée,

readers will find many French classics here.

With helpful timetables to plan out baking

projects, as well as tips on how to get kids

involved in the cooking, this book breaks

down any preconceived notion that French

cuisine is too fancy or too difficult for kids to

master. With Mardi’s warm, empowering and

encouraging instructions, kids of all ages will

be begging to help out in the kitchen every

day of the week.

Win a copy of Riviera Dreaming

by Maureen Emerson

A fascinating book which explores the lives of

architect Barry Dierks and his lover Eric

Sawyer. They changed the face of the

French Riviera, developing an architecture

empire remodelling and building homes and

gardens for their star studded cliental

including film executive Jack Warner,

playwright Somerset Maugham and the rich

and famous of the early 20th century. Behind

those walls weredscandalous affairs,

exquisite parties, politicians letting loose and

royals partying. Winston Churchill, Bette

Davis, Wallis Simpson , Picasso , Lloyd

George, Duke of Windsor, J.P Morgan, The

Rothchilds and many more feature in this

well researched book that’s filled with

fabulous anecdotes.

Click on the pic to

enter the draw

A British snail farmer...

in France

A British expat in northern France set local tongues wagging when he set up a

snail farm, Janine Marsh investigates…

Location, location, location

Mike Collins went to France to study

languages and work for a large company.

Travelling round France, he loved

discovering new places and new tastes and

snails became a favourite, so he decided to

visit a snail farm sure that he’d find the

tastiest escargot there. He was disappointed

when he tried the great classic: snails in

garlic sauce. “No personality” is how he

describes the dish, he knew it could be so

much better.

Already unhappy in his corporate role, that

snail dish inspired Mike to dream of opening

a snail farm of his own and create the

tastiest recipes. He spent a couple of years

researching and studying, working out what

would be the ideal location and finally in

2008 he took the plunge, gave up his job

and started a snail farm in the village of

Râches, Nord, Hauts de France.

Mike’s two big requirements were for a large

garden which needed to be marshy. As

soon as he saw what is now his house, with

its big garden near the regional national

Park Scarpe-Escaut he knew it would be


It’s a lush, gentle area of wetlands, two

major rivers, forests, picturesque villages

but close to the cities of Lille and Arras. The

house is on a main route “about 22,000 cars

pass by every day which I knew would be

great for trade” says Mike. “Plus this area is

like a cultural melting pot with Brits, Belgians

(we’re close to the border) Spanish, Flemish

and Dutch expats and visitors. People here

are open to innovation in cuisine”.

Setting up at a snail farm

Snails are a much-loved food in France

where more than 30,000 tons are consumed

annually though less than 5% are farmed in

France, most including the famous

“Burgundy snails”, come from eastern

Europe. But, when Mike told the local mayor

to tell him about his business proposal “he

thought I was crazy, but he was courteous

about it” recalls Mike. Undeterred, he told

the Mayor that he would set an ornamental

snail on the roundabout outside the farm

when his farm was successful. Go there

today, and you can’t miss the giant white

2.5m snail statue!

Mike created an enclosure for the snails,

what he calls a “park” in the back garden. It

didn't cost much financially to set up but he

invested a lot of time studying snail farming

and took courses and sat exams.

Only two species of snail are farmed in

France: small grey snails -petit-gris (helix

aspersa aspersa) and big grey snails - grosgris

(helix aspersa maxima). Mike decided

to go for the latter, “they’re meatier and

tastier” he says.

Snail farming starts at a “snails pace” says

Mike, starting with breeding. “Mating takes

hours, anything up to two days from start to

finish, tantric” he grins. When the tiny

babies are born in spring, Mike transfers

them carefully and slowly by hand to the

wooden posts in the enclosure. “There’s no

certainty in this game” he says, “I always

panic about them at this stage”. As they

grow the snails roam their park freely, Mike

stops them escaping “mostly” by rubbing

black soap, a natural repellent, along the

top of the fence that encloses the park.

Some farms use electric fences, but Mike’s

philosophy is about keeping things as

natural and ethical as possible.

He doesn’t use chemicals or pesticides but

grows plants the snails love such as

mustard which feeds the soil by absorbing

nitrogen from the air and transferring it to,

and improving, the soil, as well as providing

shelter from rain and sun. His dog Wanda

has been trained to work with ferrets to clear

out any unwanted visitors – scaring off birds

and rodents.

The snails take 150 days from egg to

maturity. “It’s a lot of work” he confesses, “I

doubt if I’ll ever get rich doing this, but I love

what I do, it’s my passion”.

but has help at busy times of the year from

students who gain valuable work experience

for planned careers in the catering and

restaurant industry.

The snails grow all through the summer and

are harvested in autumn. They are killed by

being dipped in boiling water, “it’s

immediate” says Mike. The meat is

separated from the shells and blanched,

then it’s rapidly chilled or goes into dishes

which are frozen “it’s the best way to retain

the nutritional value and the taste”. The

shells are scrupulously cleaned and used

for presentation.

“In theory, we can keep the meat for up to

18 months” says Mike “but that never

happens, we always sell everything well

before that”.

All the work at the farm is done by hand,

from harvesting to cleaning and preparation

of the dishes. Mike does everything himself

Mike is a walking encyclopaedia of snail facts and tells me that gastropods have been

consumed by man since the first days of humanity. Until the 14th century, says Mike,

there were some who thought that snails were in league with the devil “because they

had no legs and were close to the ground”. The Church forbad the eating of them and

they became the food of the poorest in France, along with frogs’ legs. When famine

struck, the church relented but insisted that the snail be “purged of its sins”. They

decided the way to do this was to make the snail “spit”, which was done by sprinkling

salt which causes the snail to create mucus, a defence mechanism.

Though a sustainable resource, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that farming snails

in France became automated and industrialised. The industry is now regulated,

farming of snails in certain months of the year is forbidden and in 1979 a law was

bought in to protect the species.

These days that snail spit has a high value – it’s used in medicine and predominantly in

cough mixture. There are just three ingredients in it says Mike, water, calcium and basic

animal molecule products.

“It’s not really slimy at all” he assures me and wipes a snail across the back of my hand

and tells me to rub my hands together. He’s right, my skin is left feeling peachy soft,

clean and dry - “it’s pure protein” Mike assures me. No wonder cosmetic companies are

investigating snail juice in the use of skin cream.

“Our ancestors would rub snails on wounds to heal themselves… and if you have a

cough, lick one” he urges and offers me a large snail which I decline as politely as

possible. He passes its undercarriage over his tongue and it immediately produces spit

“it’s really not that bad” he says. I’m not won over.

Success Snail farming

It didn’t take long for the locals to discover

that despite being British, Mike’s snail farm

is one of the best. “Yes, they did think it was

crazy that a Brit was growing one of the

most French things you could possibly get!”

he laughs “I think they came first for the

curiosity factor but now they come for the


As a youngster, often relocating with his

soldier father, he loved spending time in

army kitchens and learned to cook. His

biggest success has been to develop “heat

and serve” snail dishes and now offers 29

different recipes ranging from the classic

classic snails in garlic butter that started him

on this route, to snail sausages, smoked

snails with goats’ cheese and fig, snails with

Roquefort and walnut butter in a wafer case

and his “tikka masala snails” and more. His

reputation and his clientele have grown and

the little shop at the farm has daily queues.

He also supplies restaurants and says he

was once “flabbergasted to find Chef Steven

Raymon of the Michelin star Rouge Barr

restaurant in Lille in my shop” The chef

bought 3000 snails! This British farmer

who’s changing the taste of snails in France

is “cook, farmer, recipe developer,

salesman, book keeper, negotiator and a

whole lot more… no two days are ever the

same and you have to expect the


Details of the farm and shop address and

opening times: https://www.facebook.com/


Meet the Brits who run the best

Luxury B&B in France!

June 2005 was a difficult month for Peter Friend and his partner Mark. After a

change of jobs, relocation and redundancy they decided they didn’t want the sort of

stressful lives they were leading in marketing and business development for much

longer. Considering their skills, passion for travel, good food and wine, setting up

their own luxury B&B in France by the time were 40 was their goal. Peter Friend tells

how they went from their jobs in the UK to running the No. 1 luxury B&B in France…

Once we decided we were going to move to

France we devoted all our spare time to the

search for the ideal property and location.

Property pages of the Sunday papers were

read from top to bottom, scrolling through

endless internet sites until the early hours

became a new sport. It was, at times,

overwhelming – we had only been on

holiday to France a few times and,

admittedly, did not know the regions well.

We wanted to be in the south of France for

the weather and longer tourist season. We

wanted a medium sized town with good

amenities, open year-round, with lots to see

and do within an hour. The location had to

be well connected and accessible by road,

rail and air and not reliant on one airport

nor one airline. Finally, we did not want to

be in an area where there was too large an

expat community.

An essential requirement for us was that,

when the doors to our new business

opened, it had to be a viable business.

From research, we knew the maximum

number of rooms for a B&B in France was

five and so our search for a minimum of 6

bedrooms was key as was the ability to

have all of these rooms as ensuites. Added

to this, space for sizable dining room, guest

lounges, garden and kitchen were givens…

with space for a pool and to develop the

business further.

After much searching, we decided the Tarn

area would be perfect. We looked at several

properties and eventually the details for a

house in Mazamet seemed to be absolutely

perfect. Eight bedrooms, six of which were

already ensuite, a town with a population of

12,000 on the edge of a national park; six

airports within 2 hours serving many

European destinations and an abundance

of space. Add to this the fact

that it's close to several major tourist

destinations including fabulous

Carcassonne, Toulouse and Albi - it ticked

all our boxes.

Finding the dream home

As we drove over the Monts de Lacaune

from nearby Roquefort on July day, the

clouds began to clear, the temperatures

started to climb, and we descended into

the town of Mazamet – once famous for its

international wool trade. The azure blue

skies and the stunning Montagne Noire

providing a picture-perfect backdrop and,

as we were an hour early for our

rendezvous at the property, we made our

way into the centre ville. We stumbled

across an amazing chocolatier with a

queue out the door – which, being British,

we dutifully joined.

Mazamet felt right. There was a small

Sunday morning market selling the

essentials and a few bars where French

men sat on the terrace - sipping espressos

waiting for their wives to come out from

morning mass. What struck us was the

beautiful architecture of the buildings in the

centre of town which would not have

looked out of place along the boulevards of

a much larger, grander, town.

As we turned into rue Pasteur, there ‘she’

was – standing proud, the burgundy

coloured shutters shining in the summer

sun. The moment we set foot through the

front door we knew that No. 4, rue Pasteur,

Mazamet was meant to be ours.

We learnt that the property was built in

1934 by an accountant in Mazamet’s wool

industry. The owners explained that the

property needed to be re-wired but that was

the extent of the major works need (little

did we know then that it would take more

than three years to complete all the work!).

When it was time to head home to the UK,

we were about an hour into the journey

when we pulled off the autoroute to make

the call to the estate agent to make an

offer… by the time we had reached Calais

that evening, we had agreed on a price.

Sorting out the basics

We borrowed funds from a French bank

and endured what seemed like an endless

stream of paperwork by fax and email. We

used a specialist bilingual solicitor to assist

with the purchase (money well spent for

the peace of mind) .

We signed the “compromis du vent” in

September which also acted as a secondviewing.

We also met a local builder to talk

through our plans for renovating and an

electrician to obtain a ‘devis’ (quote) for the


Just before Christmas 2005, we returned to

Mazamet to sign the ‘act definitive’ (the

final part of the sale which ended with the

handing over the keys to 4 rue Pasteur.

As we returned to our new home and

entered the vast and empty property, the

reality soon sunk in and so began three

years of renovations; many sleepless

nights, a flood and a fire.

Meanwhile we continued to work in the UK

where we enrolled in evening school to

learn French.

By Easter 2009, the year we both

celebrated reaching 40, and after countless

trips to check on progress, we were made

the move to France permanent. By then

we’d made many friends with our

neighbours, French and English, and found

Mazamet a friendly, welcoming place.

Open for Business

We set up a website to promote our B&B

named La Villa de Mazamet and less than

a week later our first guests arrived.

We invited the Mayor and the local press to

an opening day. We printed flyers for local

businesses offering a favourable rate and

we encouraged every guest to leave us a

Trip Advisor review.

Peter’s top 5 tips for a successful

B&B in France

1. Location and accessibility to good

transport links cannot be under


2. Get involved with your community,

local trades people, tourist office, etc.

from a very early stage so that they

engage with you and support your

business. Part of our ethos has always

been to make sure we support the

community in which we are based - for

every 1€ we spend on running the

business, 85 cents are spent in the town

of Mazamet (and don’t be afraid to shout

about that too, especially to your local


Reservations started to trickle in and we

built up a good reputation as THE place to

stay in the area. Being so close to top ranked

destinations like Carcassonne, Toulouse and

Albi helps.

Running a B&B as a business (and as your

sole income) is hard work, with days starting

early and finishing late. Serving dinner as we

do for several nights a week significantly

adds to your workload.

La Villa de Mazamet has been a dream come

true for us. We love welcoming guests from

around the world and have met some truly

wonderful people, from all walks of life, who

have become friends. Guests will often say “if

you are come to xxxx city, you have a place to

stay”, they mean it and we have had some

wonderful holidays as a result from

Melbourne to Manchester.

2018 is our 10th anniversary season and we

are immensely proud that, today, La Villa de

Mazamet has been rated one of the top B&Bs

in France for eight consecutive years on Trip

Advisor, is included in Le Guide Michelin, the

Good Hotel Guide and the Sawdays’ guide.


3. Listen to your guests and ask for

feedback on their stay, your amenities

and facilities. Plough some of your profits

back in each year to make sure you not

only keep on top with the décor and

maintenance of your property but also

add to the guest experience – return

guests will always notice the smallest of

detail and love it when you have taken

their feedback on board.

4. Get your website and marketing plan

in place at least a year prior to opening

your doors Engage with guests via social

media and E-newsletters to help develop

return visits.

See your website as THE main

marketing tool and invest in professional

photography – this is a potential guest’s

first engagement with you and you need

to get in right

5. Work with other B&Bs locally and

regionally – don’t just see them as

competition as you can work with them

during busy periods or when you might

need them to take a loyal guest you can’t


Never mind a pretty

house, with specialist

hobby properties it's

all about the quality

of the grass or vines

says Liz Rowlinson...




Many of us have a romantic notion of owning

some vines so we can produce our own wine

to bottle and share with friends and family.

It’s a trend that has grown internationally with

Chinese and American buyers dreaming of

having their own Grand Cru.

But buying a vineyard where the vines are

too young, too old, or not planted to the

correct density can turn your dream sour. It’s

essential you seek the advice of a specialist

vineyard agent. Leggett Immobillie's Xavier

Routurier comes from a vineyard-owning

family and advises buyers in his native

Bordeaux, Bergerac and Lot-et-Garonne


He says that the typical hobby vineyard is 1

to 2 hectares (15,000 bottles of wine a year),

with a nice house attached, and costs

€400,000 to €1,000,000. This compares with

a professional vineyard of 15 - 25 hectares

costing €1.5 - €3 million, depending on the

renovation and size of the chateau/house. Of

course prices will be lower outside the

internationally famous Bordeaux region. “The

biggest mistake buyers can make is to buy a

vineyard that doesn’t conform to the latest

regulations – and/or the quality of the vines

and terroir is poor. The peak age for vines is

around 20 years.”

Vineyard properties selection

€1,449,000 Bergerac, Dordogne

Charming and cosy vineyard in AOC

Pécharmant, 10.30 hectares. Near all

commodities. Details

€2,730,000 Commercial in Gironde

This beautiful château has been

transformed into a well run and profitable

wine business - 20 ha of AOC Bordeaux

vines. Details


With land prices currently very attractive in France, a steady

flow of UK farmers are heading to France to expand their

holdings. Whilst northern France is best for cereal growing,

Brittany is prime for pigs. Poitou-Charentes offers huge tracts

of maize and sunflowers, whereas the Limousin is famous for

its attractive rolling cattle and sheep grazing countryside.

Hobby farmers tend to own less than the 50-hectare plus professionals and it’s possible,

for example, to get a lovely house with 20-30 hectares of surrounding land for €300,000 in

the Haute-Vienne.

Farm property agent, Colin Appleyard, at Leggett Immobillier helps buyers to purchase the

right property particularly in the cattle and sheep grazing areas in the Limousin. He often

works closely with SAFER, the French land agency, to ensure a rapid installation

procedure and rapid access to all the subsidies that are available.

“Hobby farming is a growing trend, although in such cases, to be totally self sufficient,

owners would need a source of secondary income from gîtes, B&B, or indeed camping on

the farm” he says. Such properties are often available, providing a great opportunity for a

wonderful, peaceful lifestyle as well as self sufficiency.



4 bedroom farmhouse & numerous outbuildings

- all in excellent condition, Bussiere

Galant, Haute Vienne, Limousin. 3 hectares

of land previously run as a cattle & sheep

rearing farm. Ideal as a small holding, close

to amenites and 36km from Limoges airport.


Working sheep farm in Le Dorat, Haute

Vienne Limousin. Organic status, 70

hectares land, 5 bedroom, renovated

house, swimming pool, 3 stone bards & a

tunnel barn. 50km from Limoges airport,

amenities close by.


Click here to see a selection of working farms for sale in France


The cost of agricultural land averages around €10,000 per

hectare in France and the cost of upkeep of horses is lower

than in the UK. This is why Midi-Pyrénées and Poitou-

Charentes attract those seeking equestrian homes.

As with farming properties, location is all about the quality of

the grass. The far south can be hot in summer! The rule of

thumb is to buy a hectare per horse – double the amount

required in the UK. Whatever equestiran disclipline interests

you, you'll find properties to suit.

Prices range from around €200,000 for houses with land,

through to around €5 million for studs, liveries, competition or

racing yards and châteaux with hundreds of hectares.

Martin Sheach, Leggett's equestrian expert, says: “The typical

buyer who is moving over with their horses enquires initially

about the equestrian facilities. Then they ask about the

features and quality of the property.”


Beautiful 4 bedroom house in

Montaigu de Quercy, Tarn et

Garonne. Ideal for horse lovers

with equestrian facilities, gîte,

swimming pool, surrounded by

22 hectares, most fenced &

paddocked. Just outside a

busy village.


3 Storey 5 bedroom country

house in Bossay Sur Claise,

Indre et Loire, Centre. 15

hectare estate with

swimming pool, gites, stables

for 21 horses, training track,

workshops, tennis court, spa

and kennels. Reduced from




For help and advice on buying a hobby

home email info@leggett.fr

Do you have to be wealthy to

benefit from talking to a

financial advisor?

“It’s a misconception that you have to be a wealthy expat in France to benefit from talking

to a financial advisor” says Jennie Poate, financial manager of Beacon Global Wealth.

“Often people think that if they don’t have a lot of assets, then a financial planner can’t help

them. But, they could be really missing out on making the most of the assets they do have

and how to plan for their future.”

Case History

Philip and Julie were a typical British couple who planned to move to France for a less

stressful life. They wanted to achieve semi-retirement whilst running their B&B near Le

Mans in the Pays de la Loire.

They had never used a Financial Adviser in the UK but had accumulated personal

pensions and an amount of money left over from their UK house sale. They asked Jennie

how she could help them and we followed their story.

Did you consider that you weren’t wealthy enough to warrant the services of a

financial advisor?

We really didn’t know what our assets were worth. We had an ISA here, a pension there,

savings accounts dotted about that we hadn’t touched for some time, and the funds from

our house sale. Moving to France was a big step and it did cross our minds that we might

need advice. We didn’t have a known financial advisor to turn to because we didn’t

consider ourselves rich enough quite frankly!

How did you end up using a financial adviser in France?

The concerns we had about our finances came to a head when we actually made the move

to France. Experiencing a new tax environment, unsure of whether our assets would have

to remain in Sterling or be converted to Euros - it was confusing, and we needed advice!

We were lucky enough to be introduced to Jennie by a contact we made shortly after we

arrived in France who had highly recommended her services. We met with her in our new

house. Jennie could tell that we needed to feel comfortable with her and worked with us at

our pace. This was so important to us, we needed to be completely confident that our

advisor had our best interests at heart, we have worked really hard to be in this position

and we felt that Jennie understood that.

We began to realise how important it was to have sound financial advice, we are not rich

by any means but there’s no point in giving it away we thought. Our approach in the past

was just to leave things as they were. Jennie helped us to pull together all our savings,

pensions and investments and consolidate them so that we were able to easily see the

overall value of our assets. We were then able to invest appropriately based on how we felt

about risk.

In our case Jennie found us a practical investment solution that had a choice of currency

and was easy to understand. Adding our funds into an Assurance Vie policy meant the

funds can sit there growing tax free until we need them so that it’s working for us in the

meantime. She explained the tax advantages for withdrawals and is always on hand to

answer questions. The biggest peace of mind is the inheritance advantages; having no

children means that it is important to us to pass on what we haven’t spent to other family

members and that can attract high inheritance tax charges.

She amalgamated our personal pensions so that we have a ‘pot’ each. And we have a

choice as to when we take the funds and how much. Two years down the line, we know we

have made the right choices.

Jennie could tell that we needed to really trust her as an individual, not just talk to a

company representative holding a stack of leaflets and forms. The support we’ve had has

made us feel much more secure and to understand our finances better. We’re still not rich

but we know exactly where we stand financially and we’re able to plan for the future in a

much more knowledgeable way. And we’re loving the good life in France!

If you would like expert advice, contact Jennie Poate or a free, no obligation consultation:

jennie@bgwealthmanagement.net or via the Beacon Global Wealth website

The financial advisers trading

under Beacon Wealth

Management are members of

Nexus Global (IFA Network).

Nexus Global is a division within

Blacktower Financial

Management (International)

Limited (BFMI). All approved

individual members of Nexus

Global are Appointed

Representatives of BFMI. BFMI is

licensed and regulated by the

Gibraltar Financial Services

Commission and bound by their

rules under licence number


And the information on this page

is intended as an introduction

only and is not designed to offer

solutions or advice. Beacon

Global Wealth Management can

accept no responsibility

whatsoever for losses incurred

by acting on the information on

this page.

The Basics of Banking in


There may not be huge differences when it

comes to banking in France and the UK or

other countries, however there maybe

some. Sian Lee-Duclos of CA Britline


Before looking at the general differences,

let’s break the myth that many people have

that unless you have a French address

(main residence or holiday home) you

cannot open a bank account in France. This

may indeed be the case with some banks,

where their policy doesn't include accounts

for non-French address holders. However

at CA Britline, that's not the case. They offer

an English speaking online banking service

that's open to residents of the UK, Ireland

and France.

Here is a simple guide to banking and how

to avoid the snags and stress that may


Banks in France

The majority of UK banks, no matter at

which branch you have opened your

account, can provide you with an over-thecounter

service and carry out the requested

transactions on your account, no matter

where you may be in the country.

In France, many banks are co-operative

mutual banks which can be regionalised.

Credit Agricole is one of these. This means

that your account, if held in a branch of

Credit Agricole Normandy, cannot be

visualised, (and therefore managed) in a

region outside Normandy. You will still be

able to use each branch to withdraw cash

from their ATM’s but any day to day

discussions and in-branch management of

your account must be carried out with your

original branch. This can take some getting

used to, especially if you normally do

everything over the counter.

Cheque books

Making payments

Cheques are still commonly used in France

without a cheque guarantee card. It's

important to have funds in your account to

cover the cheque. Postdating a cheque in

France isn't relevant as the beneficiary can

pay it in and it will be processed

immediately. If this happens and you go

overdrawn, you may become what is called

Interdit bancaire and may be banned from

writing cheques for up to 5 years. This may

affect all your French accounts. If it does

happen, contact your branch immediately to

resolve the matter.

Debit cards

Debit cards in France tend to come with an

annual fee (payable monthly or annually).

Debit cards are usually classed as

Immediate or Deferred debit (all payments

being taken on one given date of the month).

Not to be confused with a UK Credit card

which may have similar facilities.

Debit card limits are built in for withdrawals

of cash per week and purchase limits per

month. For example standard cards offer

withdrawals of 450€ per 7 day rolling period

and monthly purchase limits of 2300€. Go

over these limits and you're likely to

experience your card being rejected online,

in shops and ATMs.

CA Britline offer tailor made debit cards with

higher spending limits. You can use them in

France, UK, overseas whether that's inside

or outside of the EU, and withdrawals and

purchases are fee free.

Banking Fees

From bank to bank and region to region the

fees applied may be slightly different. For

example at CA Britline fees are the same as

any other classic branch of Credit Agricole

in Normandy but will not necessarily be the

same as a Credit Agricole in Burgundy or

other regions.

Every year a fee leaflet is sent to all

customers around three months prior to the

fees becoming applicable.

once your application for an account has

been successfully made, you'll receive a

telephone call to take you through how

banking with CA Britline works, and how

your account needs can be tailored.

CA Britline can provide you with a fullyequipped

current account, debit card and

chequebook. There are additional services

if you wish to personalise your account.

The account allows the set-up of direct

debits or standing orders, and the

management of your account can be

conducted online. Demos in English are

available via www.britline.com to guide you

through how this works.

The service also provides Insurance as well

as savings accounts, loans and mortgages.

And, there's a bespoke International

Transfer service with a dedicated specialist


For further information contact CA Britline 00

33 (2)31 55 67 89

Website: www.britline.com

Who are CA Britline?

CA Britline are a branch of Credit Agricole

Normandy. They've been around since 1999

and offer a complete English speaking,

online and distance banking service for

residents in the UK, Ireland and France.

They have a bilingual British/French team

who understand your expectations when it

comes to banking.

The experience of opening a French bank

account is made easy from the outset with

the ability to apply for your account online

and without having to provide a French


Much of the support is in English and when

you decide a French account is needed and,

Pre order M

book at: Eat

In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Fa

Mardi Michels.

From the prolific blogger behind eat. live. travel. write comes a new cook

and Francophiles of all ages. Forget the fuss and bring simple, delicious

kitchen with Mardi Michels as your guide. In her first book, Mardi shows

have to be complicated. The result is an elegant, approachable cookboo

for young chefs and their families. From savory dishes like Omelettes, C

Frites to sweet treats like Profiteroles, Madeleines or Crème Brûlée, read

classics here. With helpful timetables to plan out baking projects, and ti

involved in cooking, this book breaks down any preconceived notion tha

or too difficult for kids to master. With Mardi's warm, empowering and e

of all ages will be begging to help out in the kitchen every day of the we

Ratatouille Tian

by Mardi Michels

Serves 2

Prep time: 25 minutes Cook

time: 65–75 minutes


1 small (31/2 oz/100 g) yellow

onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic minced 2

tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper,

for seasoning

2 baby or 1 small (7 oz/200 g)

eggplant, thinly sliced

1 medium (5 oz/150 g)

zucchini, thinly sliced

3 Roma tomatoes (10 oz/300

g), thinly sliced in rounds

1/2 teaspoon dried Herbes de


Olive oil, for drizzling

Flaky sea salt and freshly

ground black pepper, for


ardi's fabulous cook

.Live. Travel.Write

mily to Make and Enjoy by

book for parents, children

French dishes to your home

that French food doesn't

k featuring recipes tailored

roque-Monsieurs or Steak

ers will find many French

ps on how to get kids

t French cuisine is too fancy

ncouraging instructions, kids


You may not know what a tian is, but if you’ve seen the

movie Ratatouille, you’ll be familiar with a version of

this presentation of vegetables sliced thinly, cooked

and served in an elegant stack. The dish you see in the

movie was created by Chef Thomas Keller (of The

French Laundry, among other restaurants), who was a

consultant for the movie. My version of those stacked

vegetables is a little easier for younger or novice cooks

to assemble, but once you’ve mastered it, you’re well

on your way to creating restaurant-worthy ratatouille!

It’s important to choose vegetables that have a similar

diameter, so they stack evenly in the baking dish.

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C).

2. Place the onion slices and minced garlic in the

bottom of a 5- x 7-inch (13 x 18 cm) baking dish.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the 1/2

teaspoon flaky sea salt and some freshly ground black


3. Stack the eggplant slices upright against the long

side of the dish so they are slightly overlapping each

other. They should be quite tightly packed. Follow with

a row of zucchini slices, arranged in the same manner.

Next, make a row of tomato slices.

4. Continue in this manner until you have no more

vegetable slices left.

You should have enough vegetable slices and room to

make at least two rows of each vegetable.

5. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the vegetables,

sprinkle with the Herbes de Provence, cover the dish

with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

6. Remove the foil from the dish, drizzle with a little

more olive oil and bake, uncovered, for a further 20 to

30 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.

7. Season to taste. Serve warm or at room


Did you know that “tian” is the name not only for this baked

vegetable stew but also the dish it’s cooked in? Traditionally, it

means a shallow earthenware casserole dish, but you can use a

ceramic baking dish for the same effect!

Serves 6

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 45 to 55 minutes

Chilling time: 4 hours to overnight


For the caramel:

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar 2

tablespoons water

For the custard:

3 large egg yolks 2 large eggs

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

1 cup (250 mL) 2% milk

1 cup (250 mL) heavy (35%) cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Special Equipment

Six 1/2-cup (125 ml) ramekins

Crème Caramel

by Mardi Michels

Make the caramel:

1. Place sugar and water in a pot, and swirl them around gently with your finger or a

chopstick to make sure the water is absorbed. Place the pot over medium-high heat. Do not


2. Once the sugar has melted and is liquid, cook for 4 to 5 minutes,

swirling the pan occasionally, but never stirring, until the caramel is a deep golden color. If

sugar goes up the side of the pan when you are swirling, use a pastry brush dipped in water

to clean the sides of the pot.

3.Pour the caramel directly into the ramekins, swirling to evenly coat the bottom of each one.

Place the ramekins in a deep-sided baking dish or roasting pan, and place this on the

countertop close to the oven.

Make the custard:

1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C). Fill a kettle with water and bring it to a boil.

2. In a large, heatproof bowl, using handheld electric beaters, beat

the egg yolks, eggs and sugar on high speed until pale and starting to thicken slightly, 2 to 3

minutes. Place the bowl on a damp cloth or paper towels to hold it in place later when you

are whisking


3. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized pot, heat the milk and cream over medium-high heat. Bring

this to a simmer (do not boil) and immediately remove from the heat.

4. Slowly pour about one-quarter of the hot cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly

so you don’t scramble your eggs! Once this is completely combined, add the rest of the hot

cream and the vanilla, whisking constantly.

5. Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the baking

dish, being careful not to get any water in

the custard, until it’s about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This is called baking in a

bain-marie and it cooks the custard gently.

7. Carefully place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 45 to

55 minutes. The outside of the custard should be cooked but the center of the custards

might still be a little jiggly.

8. Remove the dish from the oven and, using rubber-tipped tongs or a flat spatula, remove

the ramekins from the boiling water. Place them on a wire rack to come to room


9. Cover each ramekin in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled,

at least 4 hours or overnight (these will keep for a day or so in the fridge).

10. When you are ready to serve, remove the ramekins from the fridge

and, one by one, place each one in a dish of lukewarm water for a minute or so.

11. Run the blade of a small knife around the edge of the custard, place

a small plate on top of each ramekin and, holding tight, flip the plate. The custard should fall

easily onto the plate but if not, you can shake the plate vertically until you hear it drop.


Chestnut and




250g of cooked, peeled chestnuts

250g of unsalted butter plus extra for


250g of 70% coca solids dark chocolate

125ml of double cream

125ml of full fat milk

125g of caster sugar

4 eggs (separate the yolk from the


This recipe comes from the No. 1 Luxury

B&B in France, La Villa de Mazamet in

the south of France near Carcassonne .

Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees

1. Grease a 20 cm spring form cake tin. Place the chestnuts, cream & milk into a

saucepan, heat gently.

2. Place the chocolate (broken into small pieces) and the butter (cubed) into another pan –

heat gently.

3. Place the sugar and egg yolks into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and


4. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peak consistency.

5. Pour the warmed chestnut mixture into a food processor and, using the pulse setting,

blitz for a few seconds. Pour this and the melted chocolate & butter onto the eggs/sugar

mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.

6/ Finally, fold in the egg whites and the pour the mixture into your cake tin and back for

35-40 mins. Remove the oven and allow to cool completely.

Serve with crème fraiche which goes wonderfully with the rich chocolate torte.

My Good Life in France...

It's been more than 14 years since I first set eyes on my run down old farmhouse

in the middle of nowhere, rural Hauts de France. I distinctly remember my sensible

dad saying to me "this house is a money pit" and telling me I shouldn't touch it with

a barge pole. I bought it on the spot, not because I was a rebellious daughter but,

it cost less than some handbags and I knew it had massive potential. If I'd known

that all this time later I'd still be working on fulfilling that potential, I don't think I

would have believed it! Yet here I am, rendering walls, painting shutters and laying

steps and with a fair bit still to do.

I wish I could say it's the final run but of course it isn't. I wish I could say it's been

fun but of course it hasn't always. I'm thinking of the exploding septic tank incident,

breaking my fingers when I dropped a concrete block, having the bejeezus scared

out of me when I disturbed a nest of rats when we opened a boarded up room and

having tiles dropped from the roof onto my head amongst other things.

I would though do it all again if I had to make a choice. The house has changed

from a damp (think water running down the walls), cold (ice forming on the inside

of windows in winter), hardly habitable (dirt floors and corrugated iron farm doors)

barn into a cosy, comfy and charming home.

It's changed me too. I've gone from being a corporate office worker to a builder,

gardener, dog and cat maid and chicken keeper. Though I still can't cook, I know

how my food is grown, I grow a lot of it myself. I'm no longer a city slicker (well not

100% anyway) but a rubber boot wearing country bumpkin and proud of it too!

I would have never thought that I could do half the things I've learned to do - from

standing on the roof to help with the tiling (I have a fear of heights), to plastering

walls. I've fulfilled a dream to write a book based on my new life and made

thousands and thousands of new friends through writing a blog and sharing it on


Sometimes life takes a diversion from the course that you thought you had

planned. There's an old saying "we travel not to escape life but for life not to

escape us", so if you're dreaming of a new life in France and you're not quite sure

or you have any questions about it, feel free to message me, I'm always happy to

give advice where I can. One of the other things I discovered about living in rural

France - sharing makes us happier...

Janine, Editor of The Good Life France


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